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Article 19 & Sedition• Manipur High Court has ordered the release of journalist Kishorechandra Wangkhem, who was charged with sedition under the National Security Act for criticizing the Chief Minister.
• In Kedar Nath Singh v. State of Bihar (1962), the Supreme Court held that mere criticism of the government is not sedition unless it is an incitement to violence or breach of public order.
• U.S. Supreme Court, in Brandenburg v. Ohio (1969), laid down the ‘imminent lawless action’ test, which says that free speech is protected by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution unless it incites imminent (not remote) lawless action. This judgment was followed by the Indian Supreme Court in Arup Bhuyan v. State of Assam (2011) and in Sri Indra Das v. State of Assam (2011), and hence it is the law of the land in India too.
• Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution was upheld by the Supreme Court in Romesh Thapar v. The State of Madras (1950).
• Other cases of sedition charge
• Maharashtra govt. did in the case of the cartoonist Aseem Trivedi
• WB govt. did in the case of Prof. Ambikesh Mahapatra of Jadavpur University
• Tamil Nadu government did in the case of the folk singer Kovan
Social Media• Facebook took down hundreds of pages pushing political content this week. These pages weren’t taken down because they were running fake news. They were deleted because they were using fake accounts or sketchy practices – what Facebook calls “inauthentic behavior” – to try and drive traffic to specific political content aimed at influencing voters.
Public Broadcaster• Taking cognisance of “preferential” coverage being given by DD News to the party in power, the EC directed the channel to ensure a level playing field for all political parties. Commission found that the airtime coverage given to various political parties was disproportionate and not balanced.
RPA • Section 62(5) of the RPA 1951 mandates that “no person shall vote at any election if he is confined in a prison, whether under a sentence of imprisonment or transportation or otherwise, or is in the lawful custody of the police”.
• The provisions however exempt a person held under preventive detention.
• Supreme Court is hearing a plea filed by a law student questioning above law which denies undertrials and convicts their right to vote.
• The petition highlights how the Section sees both an undertrial and a convicted person equally. The former’s guilt is yet to be proved in a court. A person is innocent until proven guilty by law.
• Despite this, it denies an undertrial the right to vote but allows a detainee the same. However, a person out on bail is allowed to cast his vote.
• The plea argued that the provision violates the rights to equality, vote (Article 326) and is arbitrary. It is not a reasonable restriction.
Transparency• For the past decade, the SC has refused to divulge information under the RTI Act about the collegium’s confidential communications with the government.
• Court's view => Good people will opt out of becoming judges for fear that negative things, right or wrong, about them will come out in the public domain. Nobody wants a system of opaqueness, but in the name of transparency we cannot destroy the institution of judiciary.
• AG's view (on behalf of SC) => Opening up the “highly-sensitive” correspondence of the Supreme Court’s collegium and its workings to the RTI regime would make judges and the government “shy” and “destroy” judicial independence.
RTI• In 2009, Delhi HC held that the Office of the Chief Justice of India (CJI) was a “public authority”, and therefore, subject to the provisions of the RTI Act.
• Information held by the CJI — including, in the context of the case, information about judges’ assets — could be requested by the public through an RTI application.
• In ringing words, Justice Ravindra Bhat declared that the RTI was a “powerful beacon, which illuminates unlit corners of state activity, and those of public authorities which impact citizens’ daily lives, to which they previously had no access”. "All power — judicial power being no exception — is held accountable in a modern Constitution”.